Unfortunately, there are many medications that can interfere with your ability to sleep. It may be that your insomnia is nothing more than an unwanted side effect from a medication that you’re taking to help you with a separate problem. But because there are so many factors that affect sleep, it’s important to rule out other factors such as your sleep habits before blaming it on your medication.

Of course, if you’ve never experienced trouble sleeping before starting a medication and nothing else in your life has changed, it’s a pretty reasonable conclusion that it’s your new medication.

Here are some examples of medications that cause insomnia.

  • Nicotine
  • Antiarrhythmic agents (quinidine, propranolol, verapamil)
  • Antidepressants (fluoxetine, bupropion, sertraline)
  • Antiepileptics (phenytoin)
  • Antihypertensives (hydrochlorothiazide, nifedipine, methyldopa, propranolol)
  • Bronchodilators (beta-2 agonists, theophylline)
  • Decongestants (pseudoephedrine)
  • Diuretics (furosemide)
  • Histamine H2 inhibitors (cimetidine—for gastrointestinal conditions)
  • Thyroid medications



Alcohol acts to suppress REM sleep, especially in the first half of the evening. Because we require the REM for your memory and learning, any alcohol you consume that exceeds three to four drinks prior to bedtime can keep you from remembering specific things the next day.

It may not be that you wake up and feel like you have amnesia, it could simply manifest as fuzziness or not being sharp.

Another problem with alcohol is that it is a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate. Even one or

two drinks within a few hours of bed could stimulate your kidneys to produce more urine and fill your bladder while you’re sleeping. You’ll then need to wake up and empty your bladder.

Suppose you only have one drink to help you relax and fall asleep. Well many people do this but it works against your sleep. Alcohol is a depressant so it slows the system, but when it wears off you get a rebound activating effect that can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. This breaks up your sleep and disturbs the natural progression of your sleep stages.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink at dinner. But what you want to do, is make sure you leave a few hours between your last drink and bedtime so that the sleep-disturbing effect of the alcohol has worn off.

Dr. Tracey Marks
Dr. Tracey Marks

Helping busy people achieve their best through effective lifestyle choices that improve their personal and professional lives.


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